Cut budget from the top, Committee says - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Cut budget from the top, Committee says

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - It's been a tough budget season for the Memphis City Council, with the slow economy and pressure from the courts for the city's government to fund Memphis City Schools.

So, to avoid a tax hike and cuts to city services, members of the Council's Budget Committee are going straight to the top.  Some Memphis City Council members consider the government top-heavy, so the Budget Committee cut five percent in funds from Mayor Willie Herenton's administrative offices.

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"The mayor's office, the CAO's office, to the audit division, and to information technologies," City Council member Jim Strickland said.

Strickland said Herenton's proposed cuts to golf courses, libraries, pools and community centers are off-limits.  Administrators, accountants and secretaries are some of the positions that will go instead.

"They're important, but they're not on the front lines of dealing with the public, and I think the less we can cut that's dealing with the public, the better we are," Strickland said.

Council Chairman Myron Lowery said the impact cuts have on citizens is important.

"The council is looking to make cuts so that the citizens are not directly impacted," he said.

Lowery says the mayor had a tricky task.

"When the mayor came back with those drastic cuts, everybody then criticized him," Lowery said. "Quite frankly, he was in a catch 22.  He was in a no-win situation."

The big issue that has the Council in a stalemate is the mayor's proposed three percent pay raise for employees.

"The three percent raises come for the unions which were negotiated two years ago, so we're obligated for those raises," Lowery said. "And traditionally, we give the same three percent raises to those employees who are not associated with the union."

Strickland is worried the council is two-thirds through the budget, and they've only cut $10 million, while they need to cut $50 million.

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